Religion and Spiritual May Not Be Related

The focus for my reading and thinking has been on expanding my spirituality as a way to realize my goal of being more conscious, more loving, more joyous and more at peace.  This reading and contemplation also benefits my profession as a therapist working intensely with very challenging clients early in the recovery process.  Lately my inner practices have filled me with questions about what is traditionally seen as religion and what is spirituality.  I thought I would share some of those questions so that you too might explore them with me.
My questions include
    1    Is there really a heaven or hell or is it the quality of life we create for ourselves?  Most people wonder about the afterlife and it is amazing to me that many people consider heaven and hell a reality, do you actually believe that and why?
    2    What kind of God would invent an idea of eternal damnation, sounds more like a human invention doesn't it?  Do you were about burning in hell forever?  If so what would be the purpose of it?  Are we that lousy of people to deserve such a fate?  If so, how is it we are all sons and daughter of God?
    3    Are only people who belong to certain religions saved? What are they saved from if there is no hell?  Why would other beliefs not be saved? How come most religions claim to be the one true religion?  Who is right?
    4    Isn't the bible a story written by men who claim to have been guided by God not a book written by God who used men to write it?  How come each minister says his or her interpretation is the right one?    If each religion has their own version of the bible, then which one is correct?  How can you think that the bible should be followed literally when most of it is a collection of stories and ideas that need to be interpreted? 
    5    Are ministers any more spiritual than you and I?  Aren't ministers more agents of control supporting their religious organizations rather than seeking the truth or helping us explore our spirituality?
    6    Isn't the idea of sin a human invention and used to make people feel guilty or unworthy?  Does sin really exist?  Is guilt any more than a human invention?
    7    Religions are full of rules for social conduct, aren't these the rules of society rather than any God?  It seems the bible’s words are manipulated to rationalize all the church leaders rules and stated dogma?
    8    How come people who claim to be Christian support war?  Isn't that against the central teachings of most religions?  Aren't all wars based on religious ideas, biases, or the need for control?  Were the Crusades truly a holy war? 
    9    How come people join religions and than don't question the beliefs they are expected to accept? Does being religions mean not thinking critically?
    10    What is the benefit of checking your mind and your intuitive wisdom at the door of the church and then blindly following the minister who has no better grasp of reality than you do?  Does having faith mean not searching for the truth?  Does having faith mean you put all your trust in God and not taking responsibility for your own life? 
    11    How come many who claim to be religious leaders live in contradiction to their teachings?  When they preach one set of beliefs and live in conflict with those beliefs isn’t the hypocrisy?  Can ministers just screw up and then ask for forgiveness and go back to claiming a higher relationship with God?  How come people then again follow these hypocrites?  Where is the living by the values and beliefs they claim authority to teach? 
    12    Why are there mega churches and who do they benefit the most?  The Vatican is full of priceless art and yet people go hungry?  How come most mega churches/religions are run exclusively by men?
    13    Is there a difference between spirituality and religion?  Does religion promote having a personal relationship with God/Source/Spirit or do they define how to act in according with a set of prescribed directives?  Spirituality seems more based on deepening a relationship with God/Source/Spirit and yourself?
    14    What are the ultimate truths?  Can anyone know our truths?  Isn't our nature divine already and we are in the process of finding that higher nature?
    15    Is God really sitting up in heaven and judging us all day and at some point he sends his son to die for our sins?  That doesn't even make sense because how does dying for our sins help us?  No one really died for our sins because sins are not real are they?  Isn't this the ultimate guilt trip invented by us humans?
    16    Are we not all one brotherhood and sisterhood?  Isn’t it only thoughts and beliefs that separate us?  Maybe religion is getting in the way of us realizing our connection to each other and our higher nature?

    These are my questions today about religion and the more I explore these questions the more questions I have.  Truth for me is an inside knowing not the outside teachings of another.  Sure there have been and are great teachers and it is our work to explore their ideas and figure out which seem right to us. 

NOTE:  I am trying to post more often in the evening to encourage quiet contemplative mornings.